The softly-spoken man stood before the member for Higgins with a dilemma, and a question.
He liked Dr Katie Allen – a senior pediatrician with formidable experience and standing, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and Parliamentary representative of the blue-ribbon Melbourne Liberal seat that has produced two prime ministers – but he needed her to solve a problem.
“I like you,” he told her in front of the well-dressed and quietly seated crowd of Higgins voters who had gathered to join my broadcast at the Malvern Central shopping mall. “But isn’t the only way I get rid of Scott Morrison not to vote for you?”
I’ll tell you Dr Allen’s answer in a moment, once we get past the ovation of applause that met this remark.
Higgins has been Liberal for all of its existence
Higgins has been a Liberal seat for all of its existence. Rumors of its switch from blue to red turned out to be exaggerated in 2019, as Dr Allen reminded me with narrowed eyes. It has blocks of Labor voters at each end of the electorate, with a solid core of Liberal voters in the middle, incorporating suburbs perennially associated with privilege and status: Toorak, South Yarra, Armadale.
And here they were, the voters of Higgins – Peter Costello’s people – some gray or blonde of hair, some in puffer jackets or “Grandmothers for refugees” T-shirts; others long-time Liberal voters or disaffected conservatives. But what can you really glean about the voting intentions of a big electorate from one random group? Only the depth of their passion.
But back to the MP’s answer. It wasn’t meant as a trick question, but it was a tricky one for Katie Allen, as she rushed in to reassure Gill that, no, that was not the only way, unaware of the unintended meaning that perhaps there was another way to kick out the PM.
Her reply had shades of her colleague, Josh Frydenberg’s, overwhelming campaign in neighboring Kooyong to Keep Josh… but ditch everyone else?
Katie Allen had been blunt about Scott Morrison being a drag on her vote from day one (the two have not campaigned together so far) and the crowd gathered around the MP made sure she knew that. There was no love at all for the leader on Friday morning, and plenty of people lining up to say they were changing their vote, considering voting Green or walking away from the conservatives.
Mark had a very difficult question
One of the most powerful voices of the day, however, belonged to Mark, who soberly told me that this would be the last federal election he would be alive to vote in, and so he’d decided this vote should not be for him, but for the younger generation coming after him.
Mark told me he went to the local high school, and asked the senior teachers to talk to the students, and he had a difficult question too: he wanted to cast his final vote for the party that best represented the students’ aspirations for the future aspirations – so which one should that be?
And which one was it? “No prizes for guessing, Virginia,” Mark said drily. “It’s the Greens; and that’s the first and last time I’ll be voting for them.”
An Australia Institute poll of Higgins released yesterday mirrors the two-party preferred vote of the major pollsters, but the polls have been wrong before. What’s not in contention, however, is the depth of anger across an impossibly broad swathe of issues being expressed against a sitting Government.
Some well-regarded local members who have stayed close to their community will no doubt be able to ride out that anger on election night. But if they don’t, they might have some tough questions of their own to ask.
This weekend you can spend a little more time with younger voters and their hopes for the future, and also look back at the life of one of the great and wild princes of rock, Bon Scott: I recommend revisiting this classic while you do: Swanston St never looked so good.
Have a safe and happy weekend and don’t think for a second that I’m going to miss the chance to celebrate 50 years of the Stones Exile on Main Street.
For years this record was never far from the player, and I could never decide between Rip This Joint, All Down the Line or Shake Your Hips as my favorite track. (no, it was never the one with my name in it.) Actually – I think it was this one.
Maybe you should play the whole thing yourself and then decide.
Virginia Trioli is a presenter on Mornings on ABC Radio Melbourne and the former co-host of ABC News Breakfast.
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